February 21, 2009


Forgive Me, Father...

While I've long been fascinated with all religions, I've never adhered fundamentally to any certain one. My upbringing was a podge of Lutheran and United, and in university I did a lot of study on most of the other ones. It would be misleading to leave out the deep underpinning of mystic behaviours of my late maternal grandmother. Many in my family know/sense/feel things far stronger than an instinct, and more convincing than a bricks and mortar church. And I would be remiss to leave out a serious flirt with astrology in my teen years that left some lasting impressions.

So. Open to anything is probably the motto, though I've probably reserved my highest arching eyebrow for Roman Catholicism. There's a piece in the NYT today that I found very interesting. Unbeknownst to me (it's not like they call to ask), the act of confession has apparently changed a lot. We see so many movies where the act of confession, with an anonymous priest hearing declarations ranging from trite to murderous, had you believing that Catholic churches were doing a steady business all day, every day of parishioners lined up to lighten their psyches.

Seems that's rather quaint, and Hollywood has been misleading me. Back in the '60s the Vatican ditched the booths in favour of 'reconciliation rooms', and most people made their confession once a year. And here I thought people were unloading their broken commandments on a weekly basis, at least. Nope.

A church in Stamford, Connecticut has gone back to the old way, and visits are way up. I believe this: I think it's become easier and easier for people to 'fess up. The hardest part is getting people to shut up. The article notes the Facebook/Twitter stuff that has people writing their current state of mind, sometimes every few seconds it seems. I don't get it. I still have something posted on my FB status thingee that says I'm at the Detroit Auto Show. I've been home for 6 weeks.

But judging by the need for people to blurp up their innermost feelings/thoughts/declarations so often, maybe we're all just finally recognizing the need for a good purge once in awhile. Maybe the old time Catholics got this part right: you can only carry so much emotional baggage before you have to cast it off and start all over. Blogs are a good example of this upchucking. Yeah, I know.

The thing is, by revealing so much to so many, I doubt anyone listens to any of it. The act of revealing, even incrementally, your various states of mind is about you. The listener, isn't. He's busy deciding if his next status update is witty enough to get read, or his next blog entry will go viral, or if his sob story (real or imagined) will land him on Oprah's couch.

Which circles back to the original point of confessional: anonymous and private, to focus and reflect. Now, our incessant posting and re-posting (check out the comments sections of any newspaper - same 6 people who seemingly never work, sleep or leave their homes) shows people lashing out, yet rarely looking inward. There's a lot of anger being mined in the name of 'conversation'. What many people don't realize is that the message you usually put out there is not the one people are seeing. You don't have to be a priest or a psychologist to read the underlying condition.

Or even a clairvoyant.

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